Thursday, April 30, 2020



NIRUBEN AMIN......(1944-2006)

Watching this great lady on Door-Darshan currently . A great pleasure to listen to NIRUBEN AMIN popularly known as Niruma or Niru mother. As she speaks,  she moves the listener with her  compassion and  profound love for humanity and human values.. Her presence reflects her inner peace, poise  and a unique understanding of fundamental issues of human existence and co-existence. She was a gynecologist who turned to purposeful spiritual leadership. A champion of integration even under diverse beliefs .

" If you don't treat the other person as your competitor , half of your troubles vanish at that very moment. If  this simple truth is applied by our womenfolk living  in joint families, there will be real happiness and empathy . "

"In a normal relationship, accept the other person as he is.  No two individuals are similar . No two individuals can be compared. Never try to change the other person the way you would like him to be. You will lose him alongwith your peace of mind. "
Peace be to her soul.

(Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, April 23, 2020



                 ( Blessing Kailash Kher)

               ( With Talat Mehmood )


You may have forgotten this face   but not so easy to forget her voice. She sang many romantic songs , Gazals Bhajans and  Qawalis that Sahir penned . She also  sang Marathi , Bhojpuri and Punjabi  songs. She succeeded in creating   her space   when Mangeshkar sisters were controlling  the playback singing arena in  Mumbai film industry. She remained an active playback singer for  just  10 years but the songs she sang are fresh even to this day.

She  sang 264 songs for 155 films, some notable ones being Dilli Door Ast, Girl Friend, Dekh Kabira Roya, Barsaat ki Raat, Dhool ka Phool, Gauhar, Dil-e-Naadan, Babar, Didi and Kala Pani. She also acted in some films.

Her family  moved to Bhopal from Lahore  post partition. At Bhopal, Sudha continued  taking music lessons  apart from attending  her school / college . Her  father was  principal of a School  in Bhopal. She completed her graduation in music from Agra University.

In  Lahore she had sung as a child artist at  a  Red Cross charity event organised by master  Ghulam Haider. She sang at AIR Lahore as child artist when the legendary Jeewan Lal Mattoo was incharge of the  music section. Both Mattoo and Ghulam Haider had advised her to continue singing.
There is an interesting story to her film singing.   She was on a summer holiday in Mumbai staying with her maternal uncle's family. Anil Biswas was a friend of her maternal uncle. At a young age of 13 ,  she sang  at an event organised by Anil Biswas .Impressed by her dulcet voice, Biswas  offered her a song 'Mila Gaye Nain' in Aarzoo, a movie for which  he had been engaged as music director.. The song was well received  . Aarzoo was a debut movie for singer Talat Mehmood. After that, P.N. Arora, A.R. Kardar and others gave her  singing assignments .Some music directors also approached her and consequently ,  she kept coming to Mumbai and going back to Bhopal after finishing her work. It was hectic. . Finally at the  age 19 ,she shifted to Mumbai to live with the family of her maternal uncle (Mama) . In  Mumbai , she started  learning  classical music  from  Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan( Patiala Gharana)  and Pandit Laxman Prasad Jaipurwale. 

    Sudha Malhotra was in her early twenties when rumours of an alleged affair between her and Sahir Ludhianvi began doing the rounds in film circles in the late 1950s. Sudha had entered the world of playback singing and had managed to carve a niche for herself in a short time with a few songs, most of them penned by Sahir, which became enormously popular.
She was pretty, reserved and understood poetic nuances. Sahir recommended her name to Roshan for Barsaat ki Raat. She proved her versatility as playback singer in this movie singing Qawalis  to perfection with Manna Dey,Rafi ,Asha and others . The magic of 'Na to Karwan ki Talaash hai' is still capable to cast it's enchanting spell upon  music lovers .Her duet with Geeta Rai 'Na mein Dhan chaahun ' touched heights of popularity .Chetan Anand recorded Sahir's poem,'  Kabhi Kabhi meray Dil mein Khayaal aata hai 'as a duet sung by Sudha and Geeta Rai for a film project with Naushad as music composer. The project was abandoned halfway. Many people say that Sahir wrote this poem  for Sudha after he felt enamoured by her voice and looks. After many years,  Sahir  used the poem as song for Yash Chopra's  movie Kabhi Kabhi .Sahir recommended her to N Dutta as a  playback singer for Didi. When the recording day  for the  song 'Tum mujhe bhool bhi jaao to ye haw hai tum ko ' was fixed, N Datta suffered heart complications and remained in hospital for many days. Sahir prevailed upon the  producers to give a chance to Sudha to create a tune for the song. And a confident Sudha did the wonder. 
    After 1960, the year she got married, Sudha stopped singing in Hindi films. She did not sing for Sahir or anyone else. Neither did she meet him again.Sudha informs this  :

"Sahir Sahib was the  greatest artist I ever met. He could write on any situation with intense feelings. He had great confidence in my singing. He recommended me to the  producers of  Babar , Dhool Ka Phool and many other films. Roshan Ji respected Sahir Sahib's words.The recording of 'Na to Karwan'  was  done non stop for 24 hours. Sahir Sahib, Roshan Sahib,all singers and musicians were doing a non stop job. This type of Qawali has neither been written nor composed till date.If I have inspired Sahir  Sahib to write Kabhi Kabhi poem , then I am happy. I  got married to Girdhar Motwani  in 1960  and stopped singing. However  , Raj Kapoor Sahib  insisted  upon me to sing for his Prem Rog after I  had stopped singing. He recorded a Gazal. I asked my husband who was in the US  as I had agreed to stop all film singing after my marriage. My husband however agreed to Raj Ji's request.  Our family is in the business of manufacturing and marketing 'Chicago Radio' mikes . We have worldwide business .We are in this business since 1909. Our public address systems were used by all national leaders including Gandhi Ji , Nehru Ji and Sardar Patel.. I got Padam-Shri in 2013."

Akshay  Manwani interviewed Sudha  Malhotra  in 2010.This is what she told him:

"   Sahir Sahib  must have liked my voice. I don’t know what it was, but he was definitely very enamoured. He kept giving me good songs to sing, which was my achievement. Every morning I used to get a call from him, but it was always related to work.    My uncle would tease me, ‘Teray morning alarm ka phone aa gaya hai’. All I know was that attention was being showered on me and I was lapping it up. As a young girl, if somebody, such an important person, is giving you so much attention, you enjoy it. I don't think I  ever entertained the idea of romancing Sahir: It didn’t even cross my mind once…"  

Personally, I don't subscribe to the story that Sahir wrote the song 'Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi bun jaayein hum donon ' when he learnt about the marriage of Sudha Malhotra. Prima facie ,it looks  sheer gossip. 'Unfortunately , some writers  have also  carried   this gossip in their books, columns , magazines and write ups  without proper verification. This  poem titled Khoobsoorat Morr ( beautiful turn)  is  included in Sahir's poetic collection 'Talkhiyaan'. ' Talkhiyaan ' was published by Sahir from Lahore  in 1945 .The poem was used as a song in Gumrah, a 1963 film. Sudha  was married in 1960. And in the same year,  she said goodbye to film industry .

Sudha has worked with  well known composers like  Ghulam Mohammed,Anil Biswas, Ravi, Roshan, N Dutta, C Ramchandra and S D Burman.Some songs sung by Sudha  Malhotra that come to my mind at the moment are:

(1) Kashti Ka khamosh Safar hai
 (2) Darshan do ganshyaam 
(3) Ka se kahuun mun ki baat
(4) Tum mujhe bhool bhi jaao
(4) Na me Dhan chaahun
(5) Na to karwaan ki talash hai
(6) Ji chaahta hai choom loon
(7) Malik teray jahaan mein
(8) Maiya Mori mein nahin maakhan khaayo
(9) Ye ishq ishq hai
(10) Salaam e Hasrat qabool Kar lo
(11) Ganga ki Ret pe(Mirza Ghalib)
(12) Bhaj mun Ram charan sukhdaayi
(13)  Kauni rang mungwa kawani rang motiya
(14) Yeh pyaar tha ya kuchh aur tha

She sang a mesmerising Bhojpuri song for the 1959 movie 'Heera Moti'  in a duet with Suman Kalyanpur. The song 'Kaune Rang mungwa kawan rang motiya' was written by Prem Dhawan and set to music by Roshan and picturised on Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy.  I simply love this great composition .

   Sudha  retains her poise and elegance even in her old age. She lives with her family  at  Khar (west ) in Mumbai. She loves reading and listening to good  music  .She loves to wear Saris.

(Avtar Mota)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020



Village Dancers by Pandit Sieu ( Shiv ) Raina ..Guler...

The erstwhile princely state of Guler is known world over as the birth place of Kangra ( Pahari Miniature) Paintings . Sometime during the first quarter of the 18th century, a family of Kashmiri Pandit painters sought shelter at the court of Raja Dalip Singh ( r.1695–1741) of Guler.The Raja was a connoisseur of art and music. This family produced many artists who revolutionised the scope and subject of Pahari Miniature Art in the hills of Western Himalayas.

Noted art historian B N Goswamy writes :

" Manaku’s patron was possibly Dinamani Raina, the Rajguru of Guler. My wife has translated manuscripts like Daliparanjini—a chronicle of Guler for its king, Dalip Singh, by a visiting poet, who was engaged/ patronised by Dinamani Raina, so it’s entirely possible he patronised artists as well. And he was an important figure at the " court. He’d have been an important part of any discussion about religion. Also Manaku belonged to the ‘Raina’ community. There’s very little doubt in my mind that he was Manaku’s patron."

This statement of B N Goswamy gives credence to the theory that Pandit Sieu ( Shiv ) Raina ,a fugitive artist ( well versed in Pala and Mughal style ) from Kashmir must have gone to the court of Raja Dalip Singh of Guler only under some invitation or patronage. Pandit Dinamani Raina , the Rajguru of Raja Dalip Singh of Guler appears to be the logical host .
Was Pandit Sieu (Shiv )Raina working in some Mughal court or did he come from Kashmir directly ? This is a baffling question .But certainly ,Shiv Raina came to Guler in not knowing that his sons and their progeny would shape the history of Pahari Miniature art in the hills of what is now known as Himachal Pradesh .

There is a painting (done in Pahari Miniature style ) on display inside Philadelphia Museum of Art that has below details attached to it:

" This painting shows Pandit Dinamani Raina Visiting the Women’s quarters of Raja Dalip Singh of Guler, Himachal Pradesh India. Period 1740-70 probably.Medium..Opaque watercolor with gold and silver or tin on paper."
This painting confirms the presence of Pandit Dinamani Raina and his dominant role in the affairs of Guler kingdom when artist Pandit Sieu ( Shiv ) Raina sought shelter .
. .
Coming to the painting 'Dancing villagers" ,one can assume that Pandit Sieu Raina has painted a group of professional Nati dancers in proper attire performing 'Shiv Badra ' Nati dance possibly on Shivratri festivity.
Nati is performed by men with elaborate hand and leg movement. Performed by men, Nati has many varieties Kullu Nati, Kinnauri Nati, Gaddi Nati, Chamba Nati, Shimla Nati , Sirmauri Nati etc. Nati is also performed in Mandi and Kangra. This dance is accompanied by musicians. Although traditionally this dance form is male oriented, these days however it is performed by women as well,
In this painting , the dancers are swaying and swirling on beats created by musicians who are in the background playing on Dohl,Turhi, Shehnai ,Tabla etc. Every dancer has his individual style and pose in this work. Every dancer conveys his deep involvement and happiness as he stretches his hands and body to dance.
Pandit Sieu Raina and his illustrious son Nainsukh make it seven as and when they paint dancers or musicians in action. Here too Pandit Sieu Raina has painted seven dancers.  In the painting under review , the dancers and musicians are wearing Chola ( long upper shirt), Churidar Pyjama, Dora / Qamarbandh ( tied to waist  ), swirling tunics, and headgears.Every dancer is  using  a cloth length as dancing aid.
This painting is in the custody of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA.

(Avtar Mota)


It is believed that some families of Rajanka ( Raina and Razdan ) Brahmins from Kashmir started moving out from Kashmir valley during the last quarter of 17th century to seek employment in the courts of various hilly principalities of present-day Himachal Pradesh. These Brahmins were proficient in astrology, art, Sanskrit and Persian languages. This learning enabled them to get employment in various courts as Rajgurus or Rajpurohits or Darbaar artists. Noted art historian MS Randhawa believes that Pandit Sieu Raina was one among these migrant Pandits from Kashmir. Did Pandit Sieu Raina come from Kashmir to Guler  or he was already v a court painter of the Mughal ruler Shah Alam 1 ? This is a baffling question

  • There is an important issue as to wherefrom did  Nainsukh's father Pandit Sieu Raina pick up Mughal Naturalism. I have a different take on this. At two or three places I read that some Kashmiri Brahmin painters were employed in the court of Shah Alam 1.  Names have not been mentioned. Shah Alam 1 or Bahadur Shah was a liberal man in comparison to his  father Aurangzeb. He had refused to fight forces of Guru Gobind Singh  when ordered by his father.  He died in 1712 AD and most of his court advisors left Delhi. Jahandar Shah next Mughal ruler was murdered . Delhi kingdom faced bad time subsequently after Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali attacked and devastated Delhi. Many Persian scholars ,artists fled Delhi . I believe Pandit Sieu Raina must have come from the court of Shah Alam 1 . His arrival to Guler coincides with death of Shah Alam 1 . He and his children might have  decided to stay in hills due to subsequent mayhem created by Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali. This is my assumption that has some connect. However, it needs research. I could not lay my hands on some detailed work on Shah Alam 1 .

During the 17th and 18th century, Kashmir was passing through a turbulent period. In last quarter of 17th century, Kashmir was administered by a ruthless Mughal governor Iftikhar khan who suppressed Kashmiri Brahmins forcing them to run to hills and plains of the country to save their lives and escape forced conversion. This is the period when Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life for the cause of Brahmins of Kashmir. The suppression continued during the subsequent Afghan rule in Kashmir valley resulting in continued migration of Kashmiri Pandits to the plains of the country. 
Anand Koul in his book " Kashmiri Pandits " writes :
" Mughals deputed 63 governors whose rule was characterized by justice excepting that of Qulich Khan ( 1606) , Iradat Khan ( 1620 ) Iftikhar Khan(1674 ) , Muzaffar Khan ( 1690 ) Abu Nassar Khan ( 1694 ), Jaffar Khan ( 1707 ) and Asghar Khan ( 1728 ) who are remembered to have exercised tyrannies over Brahmins. "

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Monday, April 20, 2020



AaaaaaaaaA@@@2@²@@@@@@@@@@WWW The Nainsukh )

 In 2018 and 2019 , I tried to find Nainsukh's work in some art galleries of the US.  I was told this by an official of Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York :

" Nainsukh's work is not on display . We do possess Nainsukh but it is displayed on certain occasions. Nainsukh's work is part of the world  Heritage and consequently priceless."

This is how Nainsukh's work commands respect, price and prized place in Art galleries of the west. Yes Nainsukh of Guler or Jasrota or Basholi ,who remains unknown to the people of his land.
In this painting Nainsukh shows musicians in the court of Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota.Seven musicians are shown playing Turhi or long brass  pipes that used to be popular in hills of northern India. Did Nainsukh intend to convey SARGAM ( Sa to Ne ) of Hindustani classical  music by  presenting seven musicians ?
A Turhi used to be popular musical instrument. A refined version of Turhi could be saxaphone used in West . A Turhi requires air to be blown in from mouth with adequate pressure . And that is why Nainsukh has shown the musicians with puffed cheeks .
  Turhi, Dolak , Dafli and Ektaara are shown in many paintings of Nainsukh.  These instruments were obviously quite popular with royal musicians at that point of time. This painting has been done around 1740 AD when Nainsukh was court artist of Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota.

This painting  has been in  private collection since being purchased by the prominent British artist Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) during a tour of India, Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1919-20..

After Nicholson's death, it remained with her family and has now entered a public collection for the first time at the famous London museum.

The Painting was on display at British Museum after being lent under a licence  temporarily by a leading art auctioneer who later decided to auction this master piece . Not willing to lose it, the British Museum authorities sought help from the government, art and heritage societies  and  also raised public donations  to acquire the painting fo £4,40,000/-( roughly 4 crores ).A substantial amount was pooled by  National Heritage Memorial Fund created by government of UK. In January 2020, this news was carried by many art related journals and magazines world over.

About this painting and Nainsukh, British Museum curator Imma Ramos said:.

 "Nainsukh, whose name translates as 'Delight of the Eyes', is one of India's greatest courtly artists, and this outstanding painting showcases his gift for complex composition and precise observation. It was painted at the height of his career while he was working for the ruler of Jasrota, Raja Balwant Singh. Its jewel-like colour, intricate detail and poetic mood suggest it would have been seen up close and studied at leisure, enjoyed privately or among guests. We are delighted that it is now in a public collection for the first time, where it can be enjoyed by visitors for its beauty. The painting as a work unparalleled in north Indian art", has gone on free display in the museum's Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia. It has been bought with support from the Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund.."

About this painting , British Minister of Arts  , Helen Whately said:

"This beautiful work has enormous historical value and will be admired by visitors from around the world as it goes on display at the British Museum. Export bars are put in place to save masterpieces like this one for the nation, and I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone whose generous support made this acquisition possible."

Sir Peter Luff, the chair of the NHMF, said it was a stunning example of Pahari art and trustees had agreed “it was imperative to save The Trumpeters for the nation and keep it on public display so that art enthusiasts and historians can enjoy and engage with the painting for generations to come”.

(Avtar Mota)

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Sunday, April 19, 2020



A WINTER NIGHT  IN  JASROTA ...... A painting by Nainsukh..

Some family members of Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota are having a pre dinner gossip  session. They  are sitting in front of the blazing  fire.. A child is also held by an elderly person in his lap. The warmth brings sleep to the child .The Raja has covered himself with a shawl and is enjoying  his Hookah  . Someone holds a glass of wine in his hand. There are issues that are being discussed one to one. Every person is having a shawl or warm blanket. Winter  nights are very cold in Kandi belt of Shivalik hills in  Jammu . The blaze creates shadows and bright light that  illuminates nearby tree and a portion of Raja's house  .

(Avtar Mota.)

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DEEPAWALI  IN GULER ...  A Painting  by Nainsukh..
( Painting on display in British Museum, London,UK)

Guler was a princely state in  present day Himachal Pradesh . It had Haripur and many other towns and villages under its jurisdiction.. Founded in 1405 AD, it became a part of Punjab in 1813. It was ruled by Rajputs who happened to be connoisseurs of art.The  Guler School of art started under the patronage of Raja Dalip Singh who ruled Guler  from 1675 to 1743 AD.

 Being close to Kangra ( Nagarkot ) , it became a  cradle of Kangra style of paintings. Pandit Shiv(Sieu) Raina and his two illustrious sons initially settled in Guler wherefrom they moved to Basholi and  Jasrota. Jasrota was a small state affiliated to the larger state of Jammu.

 Nainsukh  remained in Jasrota for about twenty years till Raja Balwant Singh died. Infact he carried the ashes of Raja to Haridwar for immersion in river Ganga and made an entry in the Bahi ( records) of the family priest (Panda) of Raja Balwant Singh .

This  painting brings to surface draughtsmanship and architectural skills of Nainsukh .The Chhatris, pillars, courtyard, floor, enclosures  etc. reflect skill, proportion and design. The royal ladies in colourful dresses are lighting lanterns or Diyas. Some women are seen wearing  conical caps .
The Rajas of Guler, Kangra ,Basholi ,Chamba and other  hilly kingdoms in western Himalayas were worshippers of Sri Rama .  Dussehra   was celebrated in  Chamba  ,Basholi  and many hilly kingdoms with royal participation and patronage.  Even to this  day , Ramlila of Basholi and Dussehra of Chamba  remain an event worth participation.

The detailed depiction of architecture in this work  makes it look like  painting done in Awadhi style.  There lies the mastery and versatility of Nainsukh.

Nainsukh died in 1778 in Bhaoshli where he collaborated with his brother Manaku and later with  his nephew Fattu (1725-85,) son of Manaku and also with his own  youngest son Ranjha (1750-1830). His other three sons, Kama (1735-1810), Gaudhu (1740-1820) and Nikka (1745-1833), were also painters, and carried forward  the legacy in various principalities of Western Himalayas.

(Avtar Mota)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020



       (Waheeda Rehman in Trishul)


The voice  of a single parent mother who brings up her son in want and total self denial. For her ,focus of her every action is the welfare of the child. Is this  song that Sahir wrote for his friend Yash Chopra's movie Trishul a defacto  story of Sahir and his mother Sardar Begum ? Poet lyricist Javed Akhtar says  a big 'Yes'.
Anyways the moving  words can  bring tears in the eyes of those who have experienced this predicament .


Tu mere saath rahega munne

Ta ke tu jaan sakey
Tujhko  parwaan chadaane ke liye
Kitane sangeen maraahil
se teri maa guzri

Ta ke tu dhekh sakey
Kitane paanv meri mamtaa
Ke kaleje pe pade
Kitane khanjar meri
Aankho mere kaano me ghade

Me tujhe reham ke saaye mein
na palane doongi
Zindgani ki kadi dhoop
me jhalne doongi
Ta ke tap tap ke tu faulaadh baney
Maa ki aulaadh  baney
.......    Maa ki aulaadh  baney

...........Tu mere saath rahega munne

(Avtar Mota)

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( Saadat Hasan Manto's father is sitting in the chair fourth from left )

   Ancestors of  Saadat Hasan Manto ( 1912-1955 )  were  Kashmiri Brahmins who had embraced Islam in Kashmir .  Later , some ancestor from this family  had moved  to Lahore   during the  19th century.  From Lahore, the family moved to Amritsar . Some writers believe  that Manto's ancestors were  migrants of  1833 famine in Kashmir .During this period,  a large number of affected families in  Kashmir moved  to Amritsar, Lahore, Sialkot  and Rawalpindi in adjoining state of Punjab in search of livelihood . It is not conclusicely confirmed  whether Mantos were a part of this migration. Some  writers believe that Manto's ancestors were Shawl traders from Doru Shahbaad in South Kashmir,  who moved to Punjab after heavy shawl tax forced many weavers and traders to move out from Kashmir valley. As such nothing can be said conclusively as to which migrant group did Manto's ancestors belong..However, It remains a  fact that Kashmiris established handmade shawl weaving in Punjab in early 19th century  in various cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana ,Lahore etc. They also moved to hilly kingdoms of Noorpur, Kangra, Chamba in present day Himachal Pradesh . Some settled in Basholi and brought Pashmina Shawl weaving to this area. Noted Urdu playwright Agha Hashr Kashmiri's father was also a Shawl trader from Kashmir who had settled in Varanasi but would buy Kashmiri Shawls from Amritsar implying that Amritsar was a Kashmiri  Shawl trading centre before 1947. Many Kashmiri Shawl weavers   and traders  did good business in Amritsar before 1947. To this day Amritsar Raffal Shawl industry  survives . One can find a full fledged Kashmiri  Shawl trading centre in Shastri market, Amritsar. I observed that many women in Amritsar  have been trained by Kashmiri  Shawl embroiders and artisans .Raffal (woollen cloth)  for Shawls was manufactured by many mills in Amritsar till 2003 when I saw last . I am sure it must be still continuing.
                      (Manto with his father )
 Before partition , Manto  family had   five residential  buildings   at  Koocha Vakilan near Farid Chowk in the walled city  of Amritsar .Manto’s father,  Ghulam Hassan Manto ( born 1855 )  was a barrister . Some more persons from this Manto clan  were barristers by profession .

 Saadat Hasan Manto was born in Paproudi  ,Samrala ( Near Ludhiana )  where his father was posted as magistrate. After  his retirement , the family moved back to their ancestral house in Amritsar . Manto  had his  schooling in Amritsar . He  lived in Amritsar for about  20 years . Amritsar finds mention in many stories of Manto.  Dr Saifud-din Kichloo ,  the well known freedom fighter and the hero of Jalianwala Bagh  was a close relative of Manto.In fact Dr Kichloo was married to the daughter of  Hafeez ullah Manto ( uncle of Saadat Hasan Manto ),    a well known Kashmiri Lawyer  from Amritsar.
Khwaja Assadullah Manto , a well known barrister of Amritsar was another uncle of Saadat Hasan Manto . He  also  lived at  Koocha Vakilan. Manto’s father had married twice . He had three sons from his first wife Jan Mali .  Jan Mali was from a Kashmiri family .Manto was born to Sardar Begum, the second wife .   Saeed Hassan  and Muhammad Hassan , brothers of Sadat Hassan Manto were also barristers . They also lived in Koocha Vakilan  . Manto was admitted to Muslim Primary  School near Khair ud din mosque and later he went to Government High School Amritsar  located near present day Queen’s Road . Built in 1876 by Khair ud din ,,the mosque is located near Hall gate and connected with the freedom struggle of the country. From this mosque, Shah Attaullah Bukhari ( known as Tooti e Hind ) first raised his voice against the British rule in India. This white marble  mosque is well maintained and functional . It is visited by many tourists to Amritsar city.


( Inside view of Khair ud din mosque )

It was Bari Alig,  a fellow Amritsari who introduced Manto to classical European and Russian literature . Bari Alig (1906 - 1949) was born at Amritsar.He was a scholar , writer, historian and essayist. In Amritsar, Bari Alig had formed a society of 'Free Thinkers '.
M D Taseer ,Saif-ud-din Saif , Ahmed Rahi and Gh Mustafa Tabassum (Sufi Tabassum) were some other well known writers/  poets  from Amritsar who were of Kashmiri ancestry . They moved to Pakistan after the partition of the country.

( Avtar Mota )

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BAANDHO  NA NAAV  ISS THAANV , BANDHU !.....A Poem of Nirala ..

The poet is in the boat . The boat has just touched the river bank.  The boatman is about to park the boat  and let the traveler  disembark. There is a flashback of memories and the  poet  requests the boat man to  move away to some other  Ghaat .
I like this simple and beautiful  poem of Surya  Kant Tripathi Nirala . Bandhu is  a Sanskrit word that has come from Bandhan or ties . It is liberally used in Bangla . From Bangla , it has come to Hindi  . I found many Urdu poets also using this word. Bandhu means brother , companion   or friend  . Thaanv means place  or spot .

Baandho  na naav iss thaanv , Bandhu !
Poochhega saara gaanv , Bandhu  !

Yeh Ghaat Vahi  jis par hans- kar
Woh kabhi nahaati thi dhans-kar
Ankhein  rah jaati thi phanskar
Kanpte thay donon paanv , Bandhu !

Woh hansi bahut kuchh kehti thi
Phir bhi apne mein rehti thi
Sab ki sunti thi , sehati thi
Deti thi sab ke daanv , Bandhu  !
………………………………..Baandho na naav iss thaanv , Bandhu !

( Avtar Mota )

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(  Photo.. Manto as Air  Force Officer  Kripa Ram in 'Eight Days ')

Not many of us know that Saadat Hasan Manto  has also acted in a Mumbai movie  'Aath Din'  ( Eight Days ) produced in 1946 by his friend and actor Ashok Kumar. Well known writer Upendra  Nath Ashk also acted in this movie. Ashk was a  friend of Manto since AIR days . He was  a Punjabi from Jalandhar . Ashk was associated with 'Filmistan' company  as screenplay, story  and dialogue writer. Consequently ,he was  well known to Ashok Kumar and Sashadhar Mukherjee (S. Mukherjee ). Manto and Ashk first worked together in AIR Delhi along with Krishan Chander and other Hindi/Urdu writers. Manto quit his job and came to Bombay to write for films. 

In ' Aath Din (Eight Days ) ' , Manto performed the role of Air Force Officer Kripa Ram while   Upendra Nath Ashak  did  the role  of Pandit Tota Ram. The movie was produced by FILMISTAN  that had Manto and Ismat Chugtai in its  story department . 

 Devika Rani and her husband Himanshu Rai had started Bombay Talkies in 1934.  Actor  Ashok Kumar was  a salaried employee of   Bombay Talkies  for about five years. Himanshu Rai died in 1940 and  later in 1943,  Shashadhar Mukherjee, Rai Bahadur Chunilal, Ashok Kumar, and Gyan Mukherjee left Bombay Talkies and founded Filmistan Studios . 

For the movie  ‘ Aath  Din (Eight Days) ’  , Manto wrote the  screenplay and dialogues apart from performing the role of Air Force Officer Kirpa Ram.  S D Burman, who headed the Music Department of  FILMISTAN  ,   scored the music for the movie .  Gopal Singh Nepali and Qamar Jalalabadi wrote songs for the movie  . Apart from Amirbai Karnataki ,Binapani Mukherjee and some more singers,  Burman Dada also sang two songs for the movie .

                     ( Upendra Nath Ashk) 

In his book , "Manto Mera Dushman" Ashk writes this :-

" Manto's films, Chal Chal Re Naujawan and Shikari, despite taking two years each to complete, had been failures, and so Ashok Kumar approached me for a story. I told him a couple of plots I had in mind. Ashok liked one and asked me to write up an outline. I told him that before starting any outline, I wanted it to be clear that I needed an advance of two thousand rupees. In those days my salary was Rs. 675, but that was as a dialogue-writer, not a storywriter. If I was going to write the story, I thought I should get two thousand rupees for it. Even though Ashok Kumar was Mukherjee's wife's brother, there was a bit of ill-will between the two brothers-in-law in those days. Ashok told me to talk to Mukherjee about it, but Mukherjee did not like me, so I refused. Then Ashok said he would tell Seth Chunnilal, and that I should speak to Chunnilal and write the outline in the meantime.

Manto got wind of the news that Ashok had come to me for a story and that I was asking for two thousand rupees. He teamed up with the sound-recordist Savak Vacha to make Ashok change his mind. Vacha and Ashok had been together since the time of Bombay Talkies. Manto and Vacha took Ashok to Vacha's flat. Vacha used to keep very high quality alcohol at his place. They did not let Ashok leave until they got him to promise that Manto would write the story for the new film, and that the muhurat would be held the next day.

Because the muhurat ended up taking place before the actual story for the film had been decided, they faced many problems while making the film, but that's an entirely different story, and a long one too. Manto had given them his story for free, knowing that I had asked for an advance, (even though he gave them trouble and asked for money later when the film was half done), and thus he managed to conspire against me quite successfully. I felt terrible at the time, especially since I'd written the outline for my story and was waiting for Ashok Kumar's response. And yet, the muhurat had already taken place. Mukherjee was not pleased with me, so I had no other choice but to swallow the bitter pill of my defeat."

Ashk  had put to pieces a play written by Manto  when both worked together at AIR. Manto had quarrelled with *N M Rashid , the then Station Director over this issue and resigned . However , it was Manto who had invited Ashk to Mumbai to join films .It is pertinent to mention that when Ashok Kumar suggested  the role of Kripa Ram, Manto thought Ashok Kumar was  kidding. Very soon he  realised that his friend was  very serious. Film  lyricist Raja Mehdi Ali Khan also put some additional pressure on Manto . Raja was a bosom friend of Manto . Raja too had a small role in the movie. And Manto has written,   “Only God knows how terror-stricken I felt in front of the camera.”

( Avtar Mota )


Noon Meem Rashid was a progressive and liberal poet. He was the  doyen of free verse genre in Urdu poetry . His poem ,"Aey meri humraqs mujh ko thaam le zindagi se bhaag kar aaya huun mein ' became very popular in the subcontinent. He was posted as Station Director AIR, Peshawar in August 1947. Staying in the newly formed country for about 5 years. he moved to the US and joined Voice of America. He held some UN assignments and died in England where he was cremated as per his will. Rashid was related to Patras Bukhari , a writer, broadcaster and diplomat of Kashmiri ancestry.The real name of Patras Bukhari was Syed Ahmed Shah .Patras Bukhari was also the mentor of Rashid

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Friday, April 10, 2020




While   poet Qateel  Shifai takes out his lighter to enable Majrooh Sultanpuri to enjoy a cigarette , the man in the centre is cautious lest some  spark come to his shirt….This Photo was clicked in Mumbai…

(Avtar Mota)

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                    ( Poet Makhdoom )
                ( Iqbal Qureshi)
                   ( Iqbal Qureshi)
                      (Chandrasekhar )


“ Yaar Iqbal   ,  mera gilaas phir bhar do  .  Makhdoom ,  phir   dubaara sunaao :

“ Az azal ta abad
ye bataa chaaraagar teri zambeel mein
nuskhaa-e-keemiyaa-e-muhabbat bhi hai
kuchh ilaaj-o-mudaavaa-e- ulfat bhi hai?
Do badan pyaar ki aag mein jal gaye
Ek chameli ke mandwe tale”

"From the creation to the end of this world  ,
Healer ! Let me know ,
Does your Box  of remedies
Contain something like the concoction of love?
Has it  any cure  for the love-sick?
Two Bodies  lost in the flames of  love .
Under the Jasmine  adorned support.
Two bodies,


 Makhdoom , Yeh nazm  mujhe be-inteha pasand hai. film ke medium se saare Hindustaan mein Phail sakti hai . ”

This is what  Telgu actor  Chandrashekhar  told to his friends Iqbal Qureshi and poet Makhdoom . Like many Hyderabadis of that period, Chandrashekhar was a connoisseur of Urdu literature .The  poem was equally close to Iqbal Qureshi's  heart . Many   common friends including   Vithal Rao and  Suddala Hanmanthu loved this poem.
That day  Iqbal Qureshi,   Makhdoom and Chandershekhar  were drinking   inside a  bar cum restaurant in Hyderabad city .    Chandrashekhar was  an  upcoming Telgu film actor at that time while  Makhdoom had already established  himself as a revolutionary Urdu  poet .

The poem  was conceived  when  Makhdoom visited the graves of Master  Ashiq Ali and his beloved in Nalgunda. Ashiq Ali was a trade union leader who also had supported Makhdoom in Telengana agitation apart
joining him in  anti Nizam agitation in Hyderabad state.

Who is referred to as  'Charaagar' in the poem?  When this question was put to Makhdoom , he remained silent.

Iqbal Qureshi was  more  than six feet  (6 feet and four inches ) tall. He was from Aurangabad  but had come to live in Hyderabad where he  joined AIR as singer  . Music was his childhood passion. In Hyderabad , he also established  an academy to conduct  musical shows .   He had impressed   Chandershekhar and Makhdoom with his skill to play with  various musical instruments including harmonium , flute and Tabla .  They became close friends and would spend their evenings  together.  Later Iqbal was transferred to Bombay and that proved lucky for him.  Chandrashekhar  had already moved to Bombay . In Bombay , Iqbal Qureshi joined  joined IPTA  where he  came into contact with many  film and theatre artists and writers .  He was engaged as a  musician for IPTA plays  . It was Lekhraj Bakhri who noticed his talent and offered him a break in a movie  (1958  Panchayat )   that had Manoj Kumar in the lead role.This was followed by Bindiya ( 1960 ) ,  Love in Shimla ( 1960 ) , Umar Qaid ( 1961 )and Banarasi Thug (1962 )

By now his friends Chandrashekhar and Makhdoom had climbed the popularity ladder in their respective fields. The desire to set Makhdoom’s poem ‘ Ek Chameli Ke mandve tale ’ to music was still fresh in Iqbal’s  heart. He suggested to Chandershekhar  who   was  a successful   Bollywood  actor  for a project that would include Makhdoom’s immortal poem. That is how’ Cha Cha Cha ‘ was born in 1964. Chandrashekhar  wrote the screenplay,  dialogues ,produced and  directed the movie. And finally Iqbal Qureshi's music gave immortality to Makhdoom's poem ' Chaaraagar'.Chandrashekhar was more than happy .

Cha Cha Cha was the debut movie for poet lyricist Gopal Das Neeraj. In fact Chandrasekhar had heard Neeraj in some Mushairas /  Kavi Samelans and had become admirer of his poetry.  He wanted a poem of Neeraj  to be included as a song in Cha Cha Cha.When Iqbal Qureshi set tune for  Neeraj's song' Subah Na Aayi' , he was not comfortable with the word' khandahar'  appearing in it . He wanted to get it changed.  He told Neeraj:

" Neeraj Sahib, Gaana zabardast likha hai. Sirf lafz Khandahar se gaane ki dhun ke  flow me thoda rukaawat sa  lag raha hai. Koyi aur  khoobsoorat lafz  Daal do. " Even  singer Mohd. Rafi  felt so. Neeraj refused to change it saying that the entire focus of the poem shall get disturbed .  If one reads the poem , Khandahar is apt and the most  appropriate word . But when one  listens to  the song ,  one  tends to go with Iqbal Qureshi.

Makhdoom came to Mumbai during the  recording of his song 'Ek Chambeli ke Mandve Taley' . It was a  great reunion of three  old friends. I am informed that Cha Cha Cha team ,  along with poet  Makhdoom  visited Kashmir sometime in  1964  and shot some scenes/ sequences  in   Dal Lake and other locations  . Chandrasekhar played the role of singer Puran Chand Kashmiri in this film .

Iqbal Qureshi scored music for  some hit  film songs. Some songs were unique and trendsetters. I quote some songs composed  of this musical genius ;

(1)   Mujhe raat din yeh khayaal hai

(2)   Subah na aayi shaam na aayi

(3)   Vo hum na thay vo tum na thay

(4)   Phir aane lagaa yaad vohi pyaar ka aalam

(5)   Ek Chambeli ke mandve taley

(6)   Husan vale husn ka anjaam de

(7)   Me apne aap se ghabra gaya huun

(8)   Ta thaiya kar ke aana
(9) Aaj Mausam ki masti mein gaaye pawan

This talented  giant was overlooked and ignored  by film industry post ‘ Cha Cha Cha’. He didn’t get A grade films . He moved to Bhojpuri and B and C grade films and finally died in 1998 .

( Avtar Mota )


In Mumbai, Makhdoom also teamed up with music director Madan Mohan for a film project. Before that Makhdoom's song " Jaane waale sipaahi se poochho" was also used for 1960 movie "Ussnay kahaa Thhaa".

After the de├Ąth of Makhdoom, his Gazals were also used in films like GAMAN(1978), BAZAAR(1982) and  MANDI(1983). " Aap ki Yaad Aati Rahi Baat bhar" from  movie GAMAN written by Makhdoom won best play back singer award for Chhaya Ganguli.

"Phir Chhirri Raat Baat Phoolon ki"sung by Lata Ji for BAZAAR , touched new heights of popularity . For MANDI , Asha Ji sang " Ishq ke Sholay ko Bhadakaao" a Ghazal written by Makhdoom .

Makhdoom loved Kashmir. Amongst his many friends in Kashmir,  Poet Dina Nath remained close to him. Like Nadim, Makhdoom was also an admirer of Mayakovasky. He paid his last visit to  Kashmir in 1969 and died of a massive heart attack   the same year . He was 61  .

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This song doesn't have  great lyrics. However  , I like the composition for it's overall  freshness of  words  , music and presentation.  Sung by Madhushree, the words come as ripples created by evening sea breeze with AR Rehman's music. This  song has been written by Nashik born poet Mahboob Kotwal .
Incidentally ,Mahboob also wrote Maa Tujhe Salaam set to music by A R Rehman..
And Madhushree is from a Bengali family. She   is trained  a classical singer. Having worked mostly with A R Rehman, she made her debut singing in Rajesh Roshan's Moksha.

I quote some lines of this song .....

"Kabhi neem neem
Kabhi shahad shahad
kabhi naram naram
Kabhi sakht sakht
Mora piya, mora piya
Mora piya  ho

Nazron ke teer mein basa hai pyaar
Jab bhi chala hai vo dil ke paar
.........Lajja se maare re  yeh jiya.."

My English translation would be ..

"Sometimes he is bitter like Neem ,
Sometimes just  honey sweet,
Sometimes he appears tender and soft,
And at times stiff and rigid ,
that is my beloved ..

When he looks,
Sheer arrows of love he throws,
Any arrow that passes through this heart,
 melts  it down  in total shyness....

(Avtar Mota)

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  (Phir Saba saaya e shaakh e gul ke taley'
Koyi qissa sunaati rahi raat bhar)
  (Gaah jalti huyi gaah bujhti huyi
sham-e-gham jhilmilati rahi raat bhar )
(Jo na aayaa use koi zanjeer-e-dar
Har sada par bulaati rahi raat bhar)
(Koyi Khushboo badalti rahi pairhan
Koyi tasveer gaati rahi raat bhar....)

  ( Radhika Chopra sings Aapki yaad aati rahi)                             


'Aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar 'was originally written by Makhdoom.
This Gazal of Makhdoom has been beautifully sung  by Chhaya Ganguly. Interestingly, when Makdhoom died, Faiz wrote / added verses in his memory (“Makhdoom ki yaad mein”l).  Here is what Faiz wrote/ added to Makhdoom's Gazal:

Koyi Khushboo badalti rahi pairhan
Koyi tasveer gaati rahi raat bhar....

Aik umeed se dil behalata raha
Ikk  tamanna sataati rahi raat bhar....

Jo na aayaa use koyi zanjeer-e-dar
Har sada par bulaati rahi raat bhar....

Gaah jalti huyi gaah bujhti huyi
sham-e-gham jhilmilati rahi raat bhar....

Phir Saba saaya e shaakh e gul ke taley'
Koyi qissa sunaati rahi raat bhar....

..,..............Aap ki yaad aati rahi taat bhar

(Avtar Mota)

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